“I know what it is like to be called a n#4^r and I know what it is like
to be called a f#4^@t. I can tell you the difference in one word – none.”
I have used this quote many times over the years in writings and public speaking ever since I first saw it. It is thought provoking. It spoke to more of who I am as a person. I felt it. And, it’s not true. Well, at least not in the sense this statement equates the trauma and oppression these two identities experience beyond the moment — an act of hate.
The murder of George Floyd has shocked the conscience of the vast majority of Americans. There is broad consensus we need justice for George Floyd. We agree police brutality is unacceptable and police reform to some extent is urgently needed.
We have demonstrated this consensus in many ways from protest to prayer to philanthropy to policy to social media posts. I am good with all these expressions and do not judge how people choose to respond. I am not sure which one of these actions will bring about justice and police reform — likely a collection of several — but I hope and trust we will see justice meted out with homicide convictions for all four police officers responsible for the death of George Floyd and police reforms implemented in law enforcement agencies across the nation. I cautiously believe it actually will, but I also believe it is not the end of the game, rather just the beginning. Victory is not won until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” every day, everywhere in everything.
This brings us back to the opening quote. There is undeniable truth to the quote, but it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It does a great disservice to sharing the Black experience in America. It significantly diminishes the trauma and oppression Black people have endured from slavery to the terror of white supremacists/KKK to Jim Crow to present-day mass incarceration, police brutality and across the board disparities on every quality-of-life measurement. This also holds true for issues of great concern to the LGBTQ+ community as well.
Here are just few examples:
HIV: Although they represent only 12% of the U.S. population, Blacks account for a much larger percentage of people estimated to be living with the HIV disease (42%) and HIV deaths (44%) – Kaiser Family Foundation (February 2020)
Homelessness: Black Gay youth in general are highly vulnerable to homelessness. While only 5-7% of the overall youth population is Gay or Transgender, these youth comprise approximately 20% of all homeless youth. – Kaiser Family Foundation (February 2020)
Income Equality: Black Lesbian couples experience poverty at a rate of 21.1% compared to just 4.3% for white Lesbians and 14.4% for Gay Black men. – Center for American Progress (2012)
Hate Crimes/Violence: In 2018, there were at least 26 murders of Transgender people due to fatal violence; 17 of the 26 were Black Transgender women (65% of deaths) – Human Rights Campaign (2019)
The recent horrendous murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery occurring in such a short amount of time, have shone a very bright light on persistent and pervasive violence against Black bodies. But, as tragic as these moments are, they represent only the tip of the iceberg of centuries of ongoing trauma and oppression inflicted upon Black people in the United States on a number of problems. Ending it once and for all demands focused attention and action from all of us to redress. There is a fierce urgency of now!
I know what it is like to experience racism from law enforcement and I know what is like to experience ongoing systemic racism and they are different. Police brutality and racial profiling are one of many symptoms of systemic and institutional racism.
All people of goodwill in America need to commit to engaging in a movement to fulfill the promise of America — a perfect union with liberty and justice for Blacks. That is when we will truly know all lives matter.
Dwayne Crenshaw is a former executive director of San Diego Pride and longtime community and social justice advocate